The New York State Republican Party will contact thousands of voters in districts of “marginal” Democratic lawmakers in a bid to pressure the Democratic-controlled Legislature to conduct a vigorous “subpoena-driven” probe of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s COVID-19 nursing home scandal.
The GOP is targeting voters in the districts of six Democratic lawmakers — three in the Senate and three in the Assembly — in phase 1 of the campaign, which also urges the politicians to strip Cuomo of emergency powers granted him when the coronavirus pandemic first hit New York last year.
“We are going to take action against legislators who are hiding and failing to strip Cuomo’s powers and launch a real investigation,” said state GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy.
“Voters are clearly tuned in to what the governor did, and they are going to expect their legislators to do their jobs. You’re either on the side of justice or you’re complicit.”
The three Democratic senators targeted include Todd Kaminsky, a former federal prosecutor who represents Nassau County; James Skoufis, who represents the Hudson Valley and chairs the investigation panel; and Rachel May of Syracuse, who chairs the aging committee.
Kaminsky has been mum publicly on the scandal, in which Cuomo’s office admitted that it covered-up for months the total death toll of nursing nursing home residents killed by the COVID-19 because of a federal probe by the Justice Department.
Kaminsky, through a spokesperson, sidestepped the nursing home scandal when asked about the GOP campaign.
“Sen. Kaminsky is focused on ensuring Long Island recovers from COVID, not partisan politics—that’s why he fought for and won support for small businesses and homeowners, voted this week for nursing home reforms, and will be questioning the State Health Commissioner at a public hearing on Thursday,” said the senator’s rep, Halie Meyers.
State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker will testify at a budget hearing on Thursday.
Skoufis and May were both participants in the Feb. 10 virtual meeting with Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, when the Cuomo aide said the administration refused to provide lawmakers nursing home data because they feared the release would “be used against us” by the feds and “we froze” — revelations first reported by The Post, which exclusively obtained an audiotape of the event.
During the meeting, May — who was battered during her re-election bid last year over the issue of nursing home deaths — ripped into DeRosa, saying her former opponent had launched another broadside earlier in the day.
“And the issue for me, the biggest issue of all is feeling like I needed to defend — or at least not attack — an administration that was appearing to be covering something up,” she said.
“And in a, in a pandemic, when you want the public to trust the public health officials, and there is this clear feeling that they’re not coming, being forthcoming with you, that is really hard and it remains difficult.”
DeRosa apologized for putting fellow Democratic lawmakers in a difficult spot.
The alleged cover-up of COVID-19 nursing home residents deaths has triggered a probe by the Brooklyn US Attorney’s office and calls even by Democrats to impeach or censure the governor. Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing.
The GOP also will contact voters in the districts of three upstate Democratic Assembly members in competitive districts — Carrie Woerner of Saratoga Springs, Monica Wallace of Cheektowaga and Jennifer Lunsford of Fairport.
The phone texting campaign of voters will be accompanied by GOP events in each of the Democratic lawmakers’ districts.
A Marist poll released earlier on Tuesday found that 60 percent of New Yorkers believe Cuomo bungled his handling of nursing homes during the pandemic. Forty one percent of respondents said he acted unethically, and one in five voters said he acted illegally.
Cuomo and Zucker defended a controversial March 25 Health Department directive that required nursing homes to take recovering coronavirus patients discharged from hospitals without testing. They rescinded the order on May 10.
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) and Democrats dismissed the GOP campaign as a cheap stunt.
“This is the same party that has denied the existence of Covid. Our Democratic Senators have actually passed legislation fixing nursing homes. We deliver answers and results not political spam,” said Senate Dems rep Mike Murphy.
Meanwhile Assembly GOP Minority Leader Will Barclay decried the lack of urgency.
“For the second straight day, the Assembly Majority avoided taking any action to end Gov. Cuomo’s emergency powers. Despite a Democrat-led effort last week encouraging support for repealing the executive’s authority, the Majority now appears to be content with the status quo,” Barclay said.
“It is astonishing that even today – with the governor’s office embroiled in cover-ups, credibility issues and criminal investigations – Assembly Democrats prefer to take cover rather than take action.”